Wine producers in Margaret River have explained how an abundance of a particular tree blossom diverted birds from eating their grapes in the 2018 vintage…

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The blossom of the Marri trees in Margaret River has protected wine grapes from being eaten by birds, said wine producers.

‘We were treated to a spectacular “mega blossom” of the Marri trees,’  Cath Oates, of Oates End, told Decanter.com.

‘The most blossom in living memory which kept bird pressure to almost zero.’

Margaret River grapes birds

Netting commonly used on Margaret River vines to protect from birds. Credit: Alamy.

The Marri trees produce a kind of nectar that birds like to eat, making them less likely to go after the grapes.

‘The flowering of the Marri has a great influence on food supply for the marauding Silver-eyes, Wattle Birds and Parrots, that find grapes attractive when there is poor availability of flowering gums as a preferred food,’ said Bruce Pearse, viticulturist and Margaret River Wine Association Board Member.

‘The dispersion of birds away from vineyards’ and deeper into native forestry as they chase out the last of the blossom creates a redistribution of bird populations and slows the return to vineyards.’

Speaking about the 2018 vintage in Margaret River, Pearse said that sea breezes combined with cool nights have ensured a ‘longer period of maturation on the vine and higher natural acid content’ for both red and white wines.

Animals in vineyards

Depending on where the vineyard is, there are various animals that can have an appetite for grapes.

In Germany, raccoons are an issue, whereas in South Africa, baboons are a problem. In Tuscany, winemakers petitioned for a cull of wild boar after they were eating the grapes.

However, some vineyards have also moved towards using animals as natural pest control or weed fighters.

Small sheep have been used in England, for example, to eat weeds. In California, falcons and hawks can be used to deter smaller birds from eating grapes.

Another way of protecting grapes from birds is to use netting over the vines. However, nets reduced the amount of sunlight able to reach the vines and so this is not suitable for all vineyards.

Additional reporting by Sylvia Wu.